Thursday, 27 October 2011

Review: Jane Austen's Little Instruction Book

Goodreads Description:

"This indispensable compendium offers guidance and timeless truths from a world away. With gentle but keen irony, Jane Austen exposes the ways of women and men-- and their relationships. Here are simple rules and life lessons to make your world a kinder, gentler, and more amusing place."

Jane Austen is one of the most iconic writers in existence. Through her books, we are given a window into Regency England. Her novels are written from her observation of character and manners of those during her time. Thanks to Austen we have Mr Darcy, Mr Knightley and many other memorable characters.

According to the introduction, Jane Austen's Little Instruction Book is an insightful and charming selection of Austen's social observations from the pages of her novels - including Sense and Sensibility, Mansfield Park, Emma, Northanger Abbey, Persuasion and Pride and Prejudice. I assumed this book would be personal observations, something quirky or notes on portions of her novels, however it is simply a cute little collection of quotes from some of Jane Austens most notable works. It is elegantly illustrated and it covers the thoughts of women, men, relationships, simple rules and life lessons.

To sit in the shade on a fine day
and look upon verdure,
is the most perfect refreshment.
Fanny Price
Mansfield Park

Final Comments:
To put it simply, it is a scan through of quotes that someone has pulled out of her novels. If however you are a fan of Austen and get a smile from reading her novels, then I would recommend this to you.

Release Date: August 1995
Author: Jane Austen

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Harry Potter Shop!

For London shoppers and fans of Harry Potter, this is some exciting news. Harrods of London have opened up a Harry Potter shop only yesterday in their department store in Knightsbridge. I was very lucky to see the display on its first day while there wasn't a crowd and I got to enjoy walking around with sales assistants dressed up as Hogwarts students... I felt like I was in Diagon Alley.
It is several shops, including Olivanders, where you can buy your own wand and see all the wands from the movies. There are window displays with brooms and books. There are also stores with school uniforms (for Halloween if you like) and a movie set with lego sets, directors chairs and props from the movies.

If you can't make it to the store, below are a few photos to let you know what it's like. If you are abroad and would like to see more photos, do let me know and I can head back and take some more:

Review: Angel Fire

Goodreads Description:

"Only Willow has the power to defeat the malevolent Church of Angels, and they will stop at nothing to destroy her. Willow isn’t alone, though. She has Alex by her side – a trained Angel Killer and her one true love. But nothing can change the fact that Willow’s a half-angel, and when Alex joins forces with a group of AKs, she’s treated with mistrust and suspicion. She’s never felt more alone…until she meets Seb. He’s been searching for Willow his whole life – because Seb is a half-angel too."

Angel Fire is the second book in the Angel trilogy by L.A. Weatherly. It follows the story of Willow, a half Angel who falls in love with an Angel Killer named Alex. They were never meant to be together, but nothing can stop the attraction.
I picked up this series as I was intrigued by the idea of female angel instead of a brooding male. While it is a different approach, I felt that having a female lead as the angel isn't quite the same. Never the less, it was still a great read and pulls in the reader with a unique love triangle and a battle to save the world against the evil angels that suck life force out of humans, making them sick. This book is simply chaotic and bound to impress any YA reader.

Angel Fire is more intense than the first book, Angel. Alex is now on a mission to get his team of AK's (Angel Killers) together in order to defeat the Angels trying to kill Willow and harm the rest of humanity. We are introduced to several new recruits that Alex has to train up and the third in the crazy love triangle. One thing that is great about this book is the authors writing. I felt as thought I was in the middle of the battle, watching all the action around me.

As usual in a book like this, we are given a love story. In the first book, Willow and Alex are deeply in love and it is assumed the second book will show how they grow together. However, while on the hunt for Angels, Willow meets another half Angel, Seb. Obviously as they are the only half Angels in the world, you can expect a bit of drama... and believe me, we get it! Although at one point, I did feel like this was on the verge of the love triangle in Twilight.
The love triangle is exciting, with both males being your typical handsome, dark and complicated character. It is difficult at times to take a side as both Alex and Seb seem so perfect for Willow.

With such an action packed book that beat the first, the author has lifted my expectations and the third book is going to have to be outstanding! For those new to the series, be sure to read Angel (Angel Burn in the US) first as you need to understand Alex and Willow's relationship and history.

Final Comments:
Enticing read that had me gripping on the books waiting to see where the author would take me. At no point was it predictable and I was constantly thrown a new surprise that made reading more enjoyable. The love triangle was fascinating too! Really glad we were introduced to another half-Angel. I recommend this book to YA and paranormal readers.

Release date: 1st October 2011 (Paperback)
Publisher: Usborne
Author: L.A. Weatherly

Monday, 17 October 2011

Review: Chelsea Chicks

Chelsea Chicks – by Maria Perry
Amongst a stack of books in Waterstones ‘we like’ was Chelsea Chicks.  Now if, like me, you love wandering around London reading the blue plaques on buildings to see who once live there and wondering what it was like back then, you’re going to love this book.
Forget the ‘chicks’ bit, this is like years and years of gossip columns crammed into one small book about the going on’s  behind the now blue plaque’s  and streets  in one of London’s most iconic areas.  Did you know Whistler lived in Chelsea? Yes the Whistler as in “Whistler’s Mother”. 
Chelsea Chicks is the story of Chelsea and the people that have graced it with their presence, from Henry VIII to Alonso (Formula 1) being spotted by young girls at the Chelsea Farmers Market.
Final Comments:
A great light book, makes you smile and laugh and amazes you with bits of history that no boring dusty history book ever will.

Release Date: May 2000 (Hardback)
Andre Deutsch
Author: Maria Perry

Friday, 14 October 2011

Review: A Greater Love

This following is a guest review written by my mother.

A Greater Love – Olga Watkins with James Gillespie

A couple of months ago an online newspaper article caught my eye about a young girl so in love that she would ‘trapeze’ all over war torn Europe looking for the young man that inspired that love.  The next day in both my morning and evening commute the story received more coverage in our local press; I was intrigued and told my daughter about the story.  Shortly after, the book turned up in our home, I avoided it during the week but finally picked it up on Friday night, by Sunday I had finished the book.

A Greater Love is Olga’s story, a love for a young man that gave a young girl the strength and courage to move around Croatia, Hungary, Austria and Germany during some of the worst history that took place in that part of Europe.  You go from thinking poor child, so little luck and fortune at such a young age to na├»ve young woman to lucky and fortunate and all back over again several times over.  It’s a story of her love, what happened around her during that period in history, of the kindness of individuals when you least expect it.  

All in all an amazing story that like her love drives you to keep the pages turning.  Just when you breath that sigh of relief it’s oh no!  I’m glad she told her story and gave us an opportunity to read it. 

Final comments:
All in all a fantastic read, I felt like I was there beside her at times. I highly recommend it to anyone who loves history. I’m giving it 4 acorns because while it is an amazing non-fiction novel, you have to be interested in history and love stories.

Release Date: July 2011 (Paperback)
Splendid Books
Author: Olga Watkins with James Gillespie

Friday, 7 October 2011

Friday's Five

I'm back after a weeks absence with another day of my top 5 picks for Friday's Five from Steph's Stacks. Mixing it up again this week. Instead of the usual novels, I have even thrown in a childrens book.

1. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

This is a classic story set in Puritan Boston in the 17th century. It is a story about Hester Prynne, who had a child through an affair with a minister. What would have been a huge scandal at the time, as Hester was also married to a man named Roger Chillingworth. Hester struggles to start a life with her daughter as the whole town is against her and she is forced to wear a letter A which represents adultery - It is the symbol of her sin for everyone to see and judge her.
It is a rather powerful story, where we learn more about sin through Nathaniel Hawthornes point of view in 1850.
I was given this book during highschool and absolutely loved it.

2. The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear by Audrey and Don Wood

My first childrens book in the selection. I have loved this book my whole life. It's a funny story of a little mouse that is trying to hide a strawberry from a hungry bear. When I was younger this made me laugh every time, and funny enough it still does. For parents with children, I highly recommend this book. It would be a great one to read with your children.

3. A Simples Life by Aleksandr Orlov

If you are based in the UK, you may recognise this funny little meerkat from the television, most commonly known as Aleksandr Orlov from compare the market ads. The country has fallen in love with this adorable little guy and it was no surprise when a book came out. If you are not familiar with the ads, it is a fun and entertaining series of ads about the life of a talking meerkat, the escape of his ancestors from the Kalahari desert and how he came to own a business called compare the meerkat. The actual company he is advertising is compare the market, a website for comparing insurance.
The book isnt about the making of the ad, it is a hilarious, detailed and illustrated autobiography of Aleksandr. It is extremely enjoyable book to read and even if you havent seen the ads, it still makes for a great light read.

4. Pudd'nhead Wilson by Mark Twain

I rarely hear this book ever mentioned but it is one of my favourites. The story focuses on racism in the south and how a slave named Roxy switches her baby Chambers who is at risk of being sold down the river, with her masters child Thomas. While I do hate to use the word slave, It is how they are referred to in the story.
The title of the story on the other hand derives from a young lawyer named David Wilson who moved to the town on the banks of the Mississippi River, where he is given the name "pudd'nhead" which means nitwit/idiot.

The great thing about this book is that it shows the way children were raised by their parents and surroundings that shaped their attitudes in the south. While you think Roxy's son would appreciate his new life as an aristocrat, it only makes him spoilt and selfish.

5. A Greater Love by Olga Watkins

I actually bought this book for my mum as she had been talking about it for a while. It tells the true story of a woman and her amazing journey during world war II to find her true love. Unfortunately for her, she hits so many walls with her fiance being taken away, a war, border guards being unreasonable... Its just an excruciating long search through Nazi occupied Europe, all for love. The story is written by the woman, Olga which is what it makes it such a great read, as its all written in first person from her memories and life.
While I have not been through anything like this, my family is from the city where her story began and I have heard from my grandparents the horrible times people had to go through in order to be with their families and make it through.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Review: Silence (Hush, hush)

Goodreads description:

"The Hush, Hush series has captivated readers with the story of Nora Grey, her friend Vee, and a mysterious fallen archangel named Patch. In the gripping conclusion of the trilogy, Nora finds that as things start to unravel around her, she is more drawn to the enigmatic Patch. She soon discovers that the answers lie closer to home than she realized, and it is time for her to take control of her destiny once and for all."

I am happy to announce that the third book "Silence" in the Hush, hush series has been released. I had been eagerly awaiting this book and managed to read it in a day.

This book was absolutely brilliant. After leaving with a cliffhanger in Crescendo where Patch and Nora were suddenly surprised with a guest attacker, I was unsure where this book would begin. Thankfully the story continues on where it left off, however instead of a boring play by play, author Becca Fitzpatrick spins it around a little bit and lead character Nora is brought back to us with amnesia. This book focuses on Nora's return after her abduction and the lead up to the battle between Fallen Angels and Nephilim, including the development of the key players of the two sides and the motives behind the need for a war.

For those readers who like Patch, he is a bit annoying to begin with in this book, however things turn around when you realise he only does what he needs to in order to protect Nora from further harm. Knowing Nora though, you can expect her amnesia and love for Patch is tested again in this book. As she is a teen, she did annoy me with her constant jelousy and bad calls.
While we did have a few characters leave us in the last book, you will be happy to know some favourites are back in action here, including Vee (although slightly different now) and Scott. We even see a whole collection of new villians!

Without spoiling the book, the ending was fantastic! A cliffhanger ofcourse, but a complete unexpected turn of events that not even I saw coming.
Becca Fitzpatrick shows the world and her readers how she really is an outstanding writer and you can feel the emotion and suspense in this book through her words.

While many of us did think there would only be three books in the series, a fourth book has been announced and will be released next year in the fall.

With a battle ahead, which side do you think Nora and Patch will take?

I adore this cover. In the first book we had Patch, in the second we had Nora, now we have them together as they are reunited and Patch stops at nothing to protect Nora, hence the carrying in his arms. It's a very dramatic scene by the water with one single red feather falling from Nora's hands. The lack of colour in this suits it perfectly well as the focus as the wings and feather are the focus of this image. Any additional colour would have taken away from it.

Final Comments:
I loved this book. I highly recommend it to any YA or paranomal romance readers, but be sure to read the previous two books so that the story makes sense. This book is less about the romance between Patch and Nora and more about mystery, history and the upcoming battle. If it was simply about their relationship, I don't think it would have been as good. Thankfully we were spared the lovey dovey teen romance for most of the time, but don't worry, if its the romance you want, the book still has it.

Release Date: October 2011 (Hardback)
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Childrens Books
Author: Becca Fitzpatrick

Tuesday, 4 October 2011